The role attitudes and social norms of corruption in East Africa

The role attitudes and social norms of corruption in East Africa - making a case for survey vignettes to detect the effects of sociality and mental models for the study of corruption

Lecture by Cosimo Stahl (University of Basel, Institute on Governance)

Thursday, 11. Mai 2017, 12.30 , ABI, Freiburg

According to behavioural economics models of human decision-making, an agent’s lived experience - through repeated social interaction and his exposure to a given social context - result in said agent to become enculturated. In environments where corruption is endemic individuals and social groups may adopt the attitudes and social norms that prevail in a given socio-cultural context. By shedding light on culturally relevant differences in normative meanings, attitudes and value orientations vis-à-vis corruption between Rwandans, Ugandans and Tanzanians, this paper seeks to demonstrate the utility of survey vignettes as an appropriate method for research that intents to avoid imposed Western templates. Vignettes as a research instrument describe short hypothetical situations and scenarios intended to elicit people’s perceptions, attitudes and value-laden understandings while paying attention to given contextual settings and specific conditions. This allows for the comparison of local meanings and groups of individuals from different ‘spaces’. After making a case for behavioural approaches to studying corruption, transparency and accountability, I intend to discuss strengths and weaknesses of the vignette methodology by drawing from lessons we learnt when researching the role of social networks for rural vs. urban survey respondents dealing with corruption in the three countries. Finally, I would like to suggest avenues for further research that investigates enculturation, acculturation and the corruption-migration nexus from a behavioural-economic perspective.